JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) – Formula 1 honors Frank Williams, the popular and inspiring founder of the F1 team that bears his name and who died last weekend, on Sunday.
Shortly before the Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia on Sunday, the drivers and team bosses were accompanied by F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and FIA President Jean Todt.
They all gathered to observe a minute’s silence in his memory and stood in a circle around a picture of him on the grid while the drivers laid their helmets on the ground. Applause followed. Williams died last Sunday at the age of 79.
A model of the Williams FW07, which was driven to the world title by Alan Jones in 1980, did a lap of honor around the Jeddah Corniche circuit. Damon Hill, who won the 1996 world title with Williams, drove it.
After the race, visual tributes to Williams were to be placed on the podium, with the Williams team invited.
Williams led his motorsport team from an empty carpet store to the F1 summit, monitoring 114 victories and 16 driver and constructor titles together.
The team won consecutive constructors’ championships and Keke Rosberg became champions in 1982.
The inspiring Williams went from traveling salesman to longest-serving team boss in the history of sport and was knighted in 1999.
Some drivers wore Williams’ tributes on their cars this weekend.
“I will keep Frank fondly,” said Williams driver George Russell, who is moving to Mercedes next year. “He was such a great person and loved so much by everyone on the team and the wider Formula 1 community … He will always be a legend.”
Russell replaces Valtteri Bottas, who had nine podiums for Williams from 2013 to 2016 before moving to Mercedes after the sudden resignation of Nico Rosberg after his world title.
“Frank, I will definitely remember myself as a friend, as a character who motivated a lot of people. The whole factory drove for Frank because it was his passion,” said Bottas. “He gave me the opportunity to get into Formula 1. Without Frank and he gave me this opportunity to show myself, I wouldn’t be sitting here now.”
Williams’ success was even more notable when you consider that he suffered a terrible car accident in France that injured him so badly that doctors considered turning off his life support machine.
However, his wife Virginia ordered her husband to be kept alive, and his sheer determination and courage enabled him to pursue his passion for sports, albeit from a wheelchair due to a spinal fracture.
He stepped down in 2013, the year his wife died, and allowed his daughter Claire to become deputy team principal until the Williams team was sold last September after spending 739 races in the family.
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